By ROD AMNER and LINDA MKAZA, Grocott’s Mail co-editors
Last month, the eight Postgraduate Diploma students who reported for Grocott’s Mail from February-October this year submitted their bulging portfolios and reflective essays, took their bows, and left the building.
It was hard to say goodbye.
Not simply because they worked steadfastly to bring Makhandans stories of interest and import for an almost unbroken run of over 35 weeks (including their ‘vacation’ during the National Arts Festival).
But, because they proved to be a group of curious, thoughtful, diligent, proud, kind and funny young Southern Africans who had built strong connections with us, each other, and with the civic life of our district.
They arrived in Makhanda from very different backgrounds, speaking different languages but determined to tell local stories. They also brought diverse perspectives and skills from their previous academic experiences:
- Mbasa, with her quiet demeanour, took time to report on important GBV and human interest stories.
- Ovayo showed panache and dedication in reporting politics, civil society and sport and took those stories to radio through GM’s current affairs show, Makhanda Matters, which he cohosted with Likhapha.
- Likhapha, for whom the road to Makhanda (from Lesotho) was not easy, fought to stay. She spent many hours in communities uncovering untold stories and faithfully covering civic development projects, such as Action 4 Accountability.
- Joy, a former teacher passionate about education, went the extra mile to tell insightful stories about schools accurately and fairly.
- Siyamthanda, the historian, cultivated cultural and arts sources and took a deep dive into the community’s response to crime.
- Toto, with a background in criminology, covered crime – including a strong focus on gender-based violence – with insight and compassion.
- Zimkita, the scientist, wrote knowledgeably and engagingly about science, education and Makhanda’s water crisis.
- Sive brought the life worlds of Makhandans to life through human interest stories in all parts of the town and district. She also contributed immensely to isiXhosa news bulletin development at RMR.
Their external examiner commented that it must have been especially testing to strike a balance between occupying the role of part-time journalists and full-time students. “This course undoubtedly
provided them with excellent learning in mastering time management and life-work balance,” he said.
The examiner described their experience as a “complex, exhilarating yet challenging year that extended boundaries”. He was amazed by their productivity and proficiency and said was little doubt that they all acquired a broad spectrum of journalistic experience.
They also showed how young South Africans could contribute to the country’s rich civic life with fresh perspectives and can-do vigour.
For over a month, a small group of Social Employment Fund (SEP) trainee journalists have been filling the void left by our PGDips. Still, they, too, will be leaving us soon to join Sizo Media in December and will be welcomed back to Grocott’s Mail in January.
This is the last edition of GMDirect for the year. These Grocott’s editors have day jobs as full-time academics and have other obligations to manage before we, too, take a needed break.
However, we will continue to report on the district’s most important stories over December and collate them into a mobile-friendly GMBriefing every Friday.
It has been a difficult year for the city – our service delivery challenges have sometimes threatened to overwhelm us. But, our citizens have faced adversity with characteristic resilience and vigilance. The Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the Auditor General’s office, CoGTA, and SCOPA have all committed attention and resources to improve governance and eradicate corruption and maladministration in our city.
Our diverse civic, sports, religious and cultural organisations are more vital and active than ever. And the National Arts Festival, the ADC, Awarenet, and Assitej are running the most extensive public works programme the city has ever seen, transforming the built and natural environments, creating value chains, and enhancing our human capacity.
In other words, there is still much to be proud of and to look forward to. And we hope to be able to bring more empowering and engaging stories as we welcome a new crop of Postgraduate Diploma students into our newsroom next year.
We have no doubt they will be as talented and committed as the eight men and women we had the privilege to work with this year.